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By thenimblebar

The Hidden Benefits of Cocktail Making Classes

9 reasons why cocktail making classes will give you more confidence, boost your social skills, and help you become a culinary genius


There’s no question that the ability to make a great drink is a seductive quality. Look no further than the likes of Don Draper and Ryan Gosling to see that making a great drink is a worthy pursuit.



Even James Bond and the iconic Vesper martini cocktail has massive sex appeal (and he didn’t even make it, he just knew what he wanted).


Want to take a deep dive in the Martini cocktail? Check out our Beginner’s Guide to Martinis.


And if all you could get out of making a great drink was to win the affection of your partner’s father, or someone you’re courting, that’d be pretty great, wouldn’t it?


But in this article, we’re going to share the 9 hidden benefits of cocktail making classes and what they can do for you…


  1. Cocktail making classes help you gain more confidence


There’s something about being able to make a damn tasty drink and confidently put it in front of someone that really puts a bit of a spring in your step.


Think about what most people do — they play around with some ingredients, hope for the best, and tentatively slide it in front of you with a pleading look in their eyes that says “please like it, please like it, please like it.”


And maybe that’s you, too. But after taking a cocktail making class, you’ll know that you’re putting a super-tasty, balanced and technically-perfect experience in front of them.


You’ll dish-out Maple Bourbon Sours with the authority and confidence of Thor himself wielding the mighty Mjolnir!



2. Develop your palate so that you can identify flavours that others cannot


Spirits and cocktails give us a fascinating lens through which we can look at history, geography, myths and legends…


But most folks don’t know about all that stuff…It’s kinda like each bottle is ‘locked’ and you’ll need a key to make it come to life – and create an experience that’s richer than just the drink itself.


If you can be the person who can reveal these wonders to your friends and family, you’ll help them see something they couldn’t before, and that’s pretty cool.


Cocktail making classes help you to understand the history behind spirits – the traditions that have influenced these drinks, shaping them into what we know today. There’s usually a lot more to them than just how their flavours pair together.


3. Get new ideas so that you can ‘wow’ your pals and lovers


This one’s pretty self-explanatory, but I’m going to go ahead and demonstrate 6 ideas that you could steal from one picture, alone.


Check out these 5 drinks that one of our students, Sarah, helped us make in our Taste of Canada Cocktail Masterclass (they’ve already been sampled, so they aren’t as picture-perfect as they were when they were first made.)

  1. Infuse spirits with fresh and seasonal ingredients to instantly put your own spin on a classic cocktail (this is bing cherry-infused gin.)
  2. Make your own sugar or salt by using a mortar and pestle with dried herbs and botanicals (we’re using douglas grand fir tips, here.)
  3. Experiment with salty ingredients to make something totally unique and savoury (we infused Alberta whisky with Alberta beef jerky.)
  4. There are tons of cool patterns available on paper straws. Use them because they’re environmentally friendly and they add a nice crafty pop to your tall and refreshing cocktails.
  5. Egg white cocktails allow us to play with the weights of different ingredients. Try floating red-wine between the egg white foam on top and the mixed cocktail on the bottom (this is inspired by the New York Sour cocktail.)
  6. Use some pyrotechnics in your cocktails by toasting Angostura bitters in the glass, and then coat the glass with the fiery bitters to give your cocktail a more pronounced warming winter spiced note.


And that’s just from one picture. Imagine how much more you could get from an actual cocktail making class!


4. Meet new people and make new friends


When it comes to meeting new people, you could do what everybody else does and go to networking events.


They’re generally pretty stuffy, and the odds of meeting someone who shares your interests – inside or outside of work – are fairly slim.


You know why a cocktail making class is a great place to meet people?


Because cool people go to cocktail making classes.


People who want to better their skills in a field that has serious street cred. They’re generally highly-motivated, adventurous, FUN people – and who doesn’t want to hang with those kinds of people?  



5. Take a step outside of your comfort zone


It takes courage to step up behind the bar and learn a new skill in front of strangers.


It’s risky — you could totally mess it up, your hands will probably be shaky, your creativity will be put on the spot, and you’ll probably look clumsy and awkward.


And that’s where the magic happens. As the old saying goes: “Comfort is the enemy of achievement.”


You’ll see first-hand just how quickly you can improve – and you’ll be doing it with the support of new friends, who want you to succeed because they’re up next!


Also – when was the last time you tried a new flavour? You’ll get exposed to a bunch of exciting spirits and mixers that you’ve never even tasted – how cool is that? Your new favourite ingredient might be just around the corner.


It just takes a quick trip outside of your comfort zone!


6. Learn how to take a culinary approach to making cocktails, and pair cocktails with food


90% of bars in the world are still making cocktails with mass-produced ingredients, and dated techniques.


The few bars that are applying a culinary approach to their cocktails — sourcing inspiration from the kitchen — are creating mind-opening experiences for their guests.


And you know what’s awesome about that? You can do it easily, too.


As you explore the relationship between culinary approaches and cocktails, you’ll see synergies between the drinks you create and the dishes you serve.


Cocktail making classes will allow you to learn modern, innovative techniques (that can be dead simple to implement), making you look and feel like a culinary genius.


8. Have a date? Woo them with a cocktail making class


We get it. It’s not always easy coming up with the perfect date idea. We’re usually left with the same old tired options — dinner? Drink? Movie?


There’s nothing wrong with those, but they could be greatly enhanced by just one little je ne sais quois put into the mix.


Y’know, like a cocktail making class.


Here are just a few of the reasons cocktail making classes are perfect to add to your date itinerary…


  • Take the pressure off of both of you, while allowing you to actually engage with one another…
  • See how the other interacts in new situations…
  • Gives you both an opportunity to be a little vulnerable (remember the part above about stepping outside your comfort zone?)…
  • Creates a shared, multi-sensory, experience (the more senses that are stimulated, the more powerful the memory)…
  • There are plenty of magic moments of joy. I mean, just look at exuberance of one of our students when stirring a cocktail:
  • What are some other reasons? Let us know in the comments!


9. Have an event? Let your guests shake things up


Events are not unlike dates, but instead of one-on-one, they’re one-to-many.


The relationship between the event host and the guests is very real.


So, just like in the dating game, everyone wants to create a unique, differentiating experience.


Cocktail making classes are a perfect and affordable option to ‘shake it up’ (literally) and give your guests an experience they’ll talk about for years.


Interested in attending or booking a cocktail making class? Contact us today to find out how.


By thenimblebar

How to Become a Bartender that Any Bar in the World Will Hire (+ Free Script for Job Applicants)

Wondering how to become a bartender that anyone will want to hire? Simple. Develop the attitude that the best of the best will always want on their team

If you read our recent article on how to get a bartending job, you probably noticed that all 3 of the bar managers we interviewed unanimously said attitude is the most important quality they look at when considering candidates.


(btw, if you haven’t read that article and you’re looking for actionable strategies to help you become a bartender and land your dream job, go read it now).


Becoming a bartender that any bar in the world will hire is really about one thing:


Becoming the kind of person that any bar in the world will hire.


While that might sound a tad simplistic, continuously working on your attitude and character will transfer to (and enhance) all aspects of your life — and any bar in the world would be dying to have you as a result.


We’ve put together 4 steps that you can take today to do this.  


But first…


Think about why the owner of an establishment would want to hire someone with an amazing attitude. It’s because these people:


  • Attract better regulars (and keep them in their seats)
  • Attract the best team members who want to help the business grow
  • Are great to work with because they’re fun, supportive, and eager
  • Improve the culture of their establishment so that everyone is more aligned, excited, and happy
  • And more…


So, without further ado, these are the 4 ways you can develop your mindset to help you become the bartender (and person) that any bar in the world will hire.


How to Become The Ultimately Employable Bartender: A Simple Guide to Unchain Your Potential

Part 1: Cultivate a growth mindset


In her book, Mindset, Carol Dweck uncovers how cultivating a growth mindset can lead to success.


As she describes it, our mindset can strongly “affect what we want and whether we succeed in getting it”, whether it’s done consciously, or not.


In her book, she asks “what are the consequences of thinking that your intelligence or personality is something you can develop, as opposed to something that is a fixed, deep-seated trait?”


An interesting question, especially when put into the context of becoming a bartender. To answer it, start by asking yourself if any of the following sound familiar to you:


  • I like to stick to what I know
  • I haaate being challenged — I know my shit
  • I can’t do much to change my abilities; I’m either good at it, or I’m not


If these feel familiar, then take note: they are all telltale indicators of a fixed mindset. And the problem is that most bar owners are growth-oriented — they want their business and their culture to grow.


So if you find that you generally have a fixed mindset, it’s time to begin adopting some new ways of thinking.



(Bonus: growth mindsets perform extremely well in interview situations. This means that if you have a growth mindset, there’s little preparation you’ll need to do for your interview other than do some research on the establishment, and be yourself. Pretty cool, huh?)


Here are some growth-mindset antidotes to the fixed-mindset examples above:


  • I’m excited to try new things
  • Challenges are great! They help me to grow
  • I can learn to do whatever the heck I want (and to that we add, you can do it to a level of excellence)


Carol Dweck has created a test on her website, if you want to see where your mindset’s at.


And here’s a helpful graphic from Nigel Holmes:

Part 2: Get clear on what you want


“The discipline of desire is the background of character” — John Locke


When you get clear on what the big, juicy desire is that you have in your life, things begin to organize themselves so that you can achieve the things that you’re after.


But there’s a catch:


In our culture, it’s actually very rare for us to be able to articulate what it is we really want — it feels  greedy, or selfish, to talk about those things.


The flip-side?


Thinking big actually inspires others to do the same.


Now you might be wondering, “Okay, but what does this have to do with my question of how to become a better bartender?’


Well, look at it this way:


At The Nimble Bar School, we ask our students to do a goal-setting exercise that acts as a springboard for those who haven’t thought much about what they really want.


It’s important because we teach our students not to think of bartending as means to a small end (like paying the bills), but as part of a powerful arsenal that will help them get to a great big end (like their dream home, career, lifestyle freedom, or something else that’s really worth pursuing).


If you can realize exactly how bartending can fit into your big picture, you’ll be more motivated to see it through to whatever success looks like for you.


Remember: if you add just one bartending shift a week to your work-life, that’s an average of an extra $220.00 per week (or $11,440 per year). If you save and invested that for 4 years, you’d have approximately $50,000.00 saved — more than enough for a down payment on a house, startup capital, debt repayment, etc.


Want to get a head start on your bartending goals? Contact us today and find out how we can help.


Part 3: Develop the muscle of alacrity




That was my initial reaction too. But for anyone wondering how to become a bartender of world-class proportions, alacrity is key.


To explain alacrity (and how it applies to becoming a bartender) let’s take a gander at this classic quote:


“I do the very best I know how — the very best I can; and I mean to keep doing so until the end. If the end brings me out all right, what is said against me won’t amount to anything. If the end brings me out wrong, ten angels swearing I was right would make no difference.”

— Abraham Lincoln


‘Honest Abe’ said that when he was 6 months into his presidency.


It sounds kinda like something you’d read in a children’s book, yet it was said by the most powerful person in the world, at the time.


This is what alacrity sounds like. You just keep cheerfully doing the very best you can.


Here’s the definition of alacrity:


Alacrity: promptness of response : cheerful readiness : eager willingness


This is the attitude that got Abraham Lincoln to the White House, and it’s the attitude that gets many others where they want to go in the world.


Here are two practical ways you can effectively apply an attitude of alacrity today:


  1. Practice enthusiasm and cheerfulness using one simple mechanism: smiling

  2. Proactively solve a business problem and present your proposed solutions to someone who will find great relief in your initiative


Want a cool way to demonstrate this proactivity, that could easily land you a bartending gig at your dream bar? Dream up 3 big ideas that will help that bar improve its business, and send one to the owner (without expectation of anything in return).


Here are some word-for-word examples of 3 big ideas:


  1. Your drinks are AMAZING. I’m wondering how many hours per week are spent prepping all the ingredients that go into those drinks? In a bar I’ve worked at previously, we delegated our prep to the kitchen team – it saved tons of hours of labour, and produced even better ingredients.
  2. You have a super impressive/expansive back bar. Lots of inventory! I imagine it could be quite challenging for new staff to learn about. Have you thought about cataloguing some of the top selling spirits from each category with evocative descriptors that will help them sell these products with more confidence (and speed)? I’d be happy to help.
  3. Your cocktail presentations are OUTSTANDING. In my experience, taking a culinary approach to cocktails can lead to quite a bit of waste (particularly in the citrus department). Have you experimented with dehydrated garnishes? Some wonderful examples I’ve used are lemons, limes, oranges, grapefruits, candied ginger, rose buds, and more. They look beautiful, last forever, and the best part? Waaay less waste. If you’d like me to source some dehydrated garnishes for you to test, let me know.


If you want to see a word-for-word script of a successful email that I sent to a bar owner, get free instant access here.


You could, over time, even send 3 separate emails with each idea. I assure you that if you do this a few times, you will get your foot in the door.


(I believe in this tactic so much that I’ll offer you a guarantee: if you try this and don’t see success, send me an email and I’ll personally help you).


Part 4: Be other-focused (aka lose your ego)


This one is simple, but not easy.


Thing is, it’s absolutely essential to get right if you want to become a bartender that a-heeeeenyone would want to hire.


Why, you ask? Put simply: working in the service industry means you gotta prioritise those you’re serving (err… duh). 


Hey, we know as well as anyone who’s worked behind the wood that it’s easy to succumb to emotional reactions when a customer complains their drink “isn’t strong enough” (or whatever it may be in a given scenario.) But there’s a big difference between standing your ground when necessary, and overreacting when your ego feels threatened.


Training your ego to take a back seat is a sure-fire way to put you on track to becoming a stellar bartender (and an awesome person to work alongside, too).


There are two specific ways you can practice the art of losing your ego:


  1. Think about what you can give, instead of what’s in it for you


When cultivating the traits needed to help you become an awesome bartender, you should always be thinking about what you can do for the establishment and the people who work there.


Start by asking yourself questions like:


‘How can I enrich their lives?’ and ‘what can I give them?’


This circles back to our earlier point about scoping out ways to improve the business (remember our examples about inventory, dehydrated stock, and getting prep support from the kitchen? If not, refresh your memory up above!).


Always be on the lookout for ways you can create value for your team. Because doing this well makes you valuable to them — which will end up far better for you in the long run than simply prioritizing your short term gains.


2. Think about how you can listen more


Most folks think bartenders are talkers, but a seriously good bartender is one who has mastered the art of listening.


As Ryan Holiday — master of ego-squashing — so eloquently put it:


“And that’s what is so insidious about talk. Anyone can talk about himself or herself. Even a child knows how to gossip and chatter. Most people are decent at hype and sales. So what is scarce and rare? Silence. The ability to deliberately keep yourself out of the conversation and subsist without its validation. Silence is the respite of the confident and the strong.”


Yep, the old adage that silence is golden is as relevant behind the bar as it is anywhere else.


And you know what?


It’s not only the silence that’s golden, but also the space you create for your customers to do the talking. After all, what’s better than a good chit-chat to unload the stresses of the day? It’ll make your patrons feel at home, at ease, and excited to come back to see you again.


The best bars in the world will be proud to have you representing them – if you remember to practice these skills:


  1. Develop your ‘growth-mindset.’
  2. Be clear with yourself about your goals.
  3. Remember: Alacrity.
  4. Ditch the ego.


These are the differences between a decent bartender, and a Master of their Craft. Which side of that equation do you fall on? It’s your call – and it’s never too late to switch sides.


How to get a bartending job

By thenimblebar

How to get a job as a bartender (even if you have no skills, knowledge, or experience)

Bar managers explain why they’ve hired new bartenders who had no experience in the past and how you can get hired using this counter-intuitive strategy.


If you read our recent bar terminology 101 blog, you know that we take our bar schooling seriously. But how does one actually get a job as a bartender?


Many would-be bartenders don’t go after their dream bartending job (or even any bartending job) because they don’t feel like they have the right experience. That’s the wrong reason to pass up your dream gig, and we spoke with 3 bar managers to show you that it IS possible to get a job as a bartender with few bartending skills or credentials.


In fact, if you apply the right mix of the four strategies we’re about to describe, it’s actually very likely that you will get hired with little to no experience.


Want to accelerate your bartending prowess? Learn more about the Nimble Bar School here.


The Four Strategies


  1. The simple 10-bar hitlist strategy

  2. Rapport before resume

  3. Take a supporting role

  4. Persistent follow up

Introducing our expert bar managers


Shawn Soole



Shawn Soole, a 20-year hospitality veteran and award-winning bartender, has managed bars from chain restaurants like Moxie’s to internationally-recognized craft cocktail bars. He’s even opened two of his own successful bars in Victoria, BC.


He currently heads the bar at Victoria, B.C.’s iconic Pagliacci’s Restaurant and is the primary consultant at his hospitality management company, Soole Hospitality Concepts.


Want to become a bartender? Shawn says, “Personality and work ethic trump everything else.”


Simon Ogden



Considered by many in the bartending community to be a sage wizard, there isn’t much that Simon Ogden hasn’t seen in his 30-year bartending and managing tenure.


From being shot at in early 90s nightclubs, to running community-building bartender bootcamps, Simon is an endless source of insight for the bartenders he mentors.


Want to become a bartender? Keep this piece of Simon Wisdom in your back pocket:


“My hiring philosophy could neatly be summed up by ‘hire attitude, train skill,’ really, and to be honest I’ve found bartenders who came in with deeply embedded and intractable opinions on the ‘right’ way to tend bar to be comparatively difficult to work with.”


Brant Porter



As an ambitious youngster in the world of hospitality, Brant knew that he’d have to make some big leaps to get him closer to his goals.


He grew up in his family’s restaurant and already had a lot of the tools he needed to move up fast. But he still had to apply those tools. At age 24, he took on the role of bar manager at Victoria’s esteemed Veneto Cocktail Bar & Tapa Lounge.


Want to become a bartender, Brant says, “making drinks is by far the easiest part of bartending, so attitude is 100%.”


Okay, so now that we know the importance of attitude, we asked these bar managers to help us put together actionable strategies and tactics to help you in your dream bartending job search.


Shawn, Simon, and Brant are going to let us in on how they would get a job if they were starting from scratch with no skills, knowledge, or experience.


Part I: The simple 10-Bar Hitlist Strategy


There’s a very simple reason why the 10 Bar Hitlist Strategy works: it’s the opposite of what 99.9% of people do.


Most people don’t get the bartending job they want because they rely on hope. They use hope as a strategy by popping into a bar or restaurant with a (usually lackluster) resume, strike up a conversation with the manager, and simply hope for the best.



Worse still, they often show up awkwardly at busy times during the day, and so their resume ends up in the trash.


But you’re reading this article, which means you’re a smart cookie. Use this strategy to differentiate yourself and get the bartending job you want.


Step 0: Polish your resume and make it professional.


This article isn’t about resume writing, and you probably wouldn’t read it if it were. But, if you want to work as a bartender, you need to give your resume a little shine. Here’s how…


Make an investment in your resume that will pay for itself in half a bartending shift.


Go to UpWork or Fiverr and find a resume writer who can help you craft a resume that will pack a punch.


If you absolutely can’t afford to spend any money on professional help (you’d better be living in a cardboard box and eating Cup O’ Noodles to convince me you can’t afford the investment), here are two simple ways you can improve your resume on your own:


  1. Ask three people you respect to give you objective feedback on your resume. Even better if they’re hospitality professionals.
  2. Use a resume template. There are tons out there.

Step 1: List your 10 dream bars you’d love to work at.


By simply writing down where you’d like to work, you’re giving yourself a clear framework that will help guide your efforts.


With this list you avoid aimlessly walking into any and every bar that you happen upon, and you give yourself a better chance of ending up with a job you’re really excited about.


Get the same 10 Bar Hitlist Strategy spreadsheet that we give our students


The names of your 10 dream bars


Start by gathering the names of the 10 bars you would most like to work at.


This list might take some time to develop because it requires research. Try to visit the bars you think you’d want to work at. You could simply write down bars you’ve heard of, but you’ll get a much better idea of whether or not you’d want to work at any of them by going in person and experiencing it first hand.


Ask around.


And don’t stop at one bar. A key point of this strategy is that you have several bars you’re going to work on to increase your odds of getting a job. If you don’t know ten different bars, that’s ok. Do some searching (be it online, on foot, or in local magazines and guides) and ask everyone you can. You’ll get there.


When you visit, ask yourself some questions…


  • Do the staff seem happy?
  • Does it seem like there’s a good sense of ‘team’?
  • Does the bar seem well-managed (i.e. is everything under control? Cool, calm, and collected?)
  • Would I be proud to work here?


Take the time to imagine what it would be like to spend an entire 8-10 hour shift working at this bar, with these people.


Step 2: Research each bar in detail.

Research its history and what it’s trying to accomplish.


Simon says that when getting the bartending job you want, it’s important to leave preconceptions about how things are done at the door. That’s why we research.


Every manager and restaurant owner has a vision for the establishment. You can find out what they’re trying to do through visiting their website, observing the ambience of the establishment, or simply striking up a conversation with the staff.


If you can show that you’ve taken the time to learn about an establishment (especially before speaking with the hiring bar manager), you’ll quickly set yourself apart from other candidates.


When you show a manager or owner that you know who they are, why they do what they do, and what makes them unique, you communicate that, for you, they are the only pebble on the beach (they’re the one and only bar you’re willing to work at).


This type of knowledge is also massively helpful because it shows you’re serious about adding value to their establishment and becoming part of something bigger than yourself. Most applicants sound like they’re just looking for a job, any job, and they don’t really care.

An example:


Let’s say I wanted to work at Canon in Seattle (#6 on the World’s 50 Best Bars), I would start by checking out their website to get an overall feel.



Okay, so there are 4,000 spirits in their current collection. If you want to work here, now you know what else you need to study (spirits, bar lingo, and, of course, essential classic cocktails).


Want to fast-track your bartending knowledge? Learn more about the Nimble Bar School here.


Next I’d look to social media to find out what they’re up to currently. Do they host events? What’s the tone of their posts? Humorous? Ironic? Sarcastic? Do they feature seasonal items or specials? This will help you get acquainted with what they’re focusing on right now


As of the writing of this article, our target bar, Canon, recently posted about a Maker’s Mark collaboration:



Pretty cool! Here are some things you can say about this project to your point of contact that will help you set yourself apart in conversation.


  • “Such a cool project! How do you think this whiskey contrasts with other MM products?”
  • “That Maker’s Mark collaboration is awesome. How many bottles of that did you have made?”
  • “Are those the different types of wood and char levels attached to the bottle? Wowie. That’s really smart.”


You don’t need to blow their mind with your knowledge, you’re simply expressing interest and knowledge, seeking common ground, and building rapport.


A quick note: When you compliment, make sure it’s authentic and sincere. Don’t say something is cool or awesome if you don’t believe it. People can tell.


Step 3: Research the key contacts at each bar.


The next step in the hitlist strategy is to write down the name of the primary point of contact for each of your ten bars.


If you find the names of additional points of contact in the process, just add them to additional rows to your spreadsheet. Sometimes you won’t get ahold of the primary contact, so it’s helpful to have another option.


The primary point of contact is whoever is responsible for hiring for the bar. A secondary point of contact is anyone else in the establishment who can say they know you (whether a bartender, server, host, or otherwise)….


Simon makes this suggestion for reaching the primary point of contact:


  • Ask for whoever does the hiring for the bar—not the day manager, not the bartender on shift, not the restaurant manager if the bar manager does the hiring, it’s “please may I speak to whomever is in charge of hiring for the bar.”
  • If the answer is “they’re not here right now,” the return is “no problem, when’s a good time to catch them, and by the way, what’s their name?”
  • Then come back until you can shake that particular hand.


Which brings us to…


Part 2: Rapport before resume.


I know, I know. We just told you earlier to work on your resume. And you need to. But your resume isn’t your strategy. Yes, it needs to look professional. A professional resume is a necessary formality, but a killer resume, by itself, won’t get you the bartending job.


Remember what Brant said, “Attitude is 100%!” Your resume can only communicate, like, 5% attitude.

When it comes to rapport, most people shoot themselves in the foot…


Most people approach their job search as a means to an end. They need the job, but the employer certainly doesn’t need them.


As a result, most people come across as needy. It’s like they’re saying “I’m helpless, and you have to help me.”


Humans are hard-wired to avoid neediness. You’ve felt this before: A needy friend or stranger seems nice but kind of creeps you out or turns you off. When you approach a potential employer with an air of desperation, they feel the same way.


Here are three beliefs I’ve adopted that have helped me when looking for jobs (it’s helped me in life in general too):


  • “I’m the expert bartender, and I’m the prize.”


This gives me the confidence I need to approach any person and any situation. Even if I’m not at the expert level, I still say to myself, “This bar would be lucky to have me.”


  • “I will be genuinely curious about the bar, its story, and its people.”


This shows humility and an eager willingness to find common ground with the bar and its people. This attitude attracts people to you. If you can demonstrate this in conversation with your point of contact, they will trust that you will do the same with your colleagues and guests.


  • “I’m looking for this relationship to be a win-win, and I’m looking for a good fit. We’re both in this together.”


When you demonstrate through your words that you actually have the establishment’s best interests in mind, you develop trust, and they might give you the opportunity to prove yourself. Then you can demonstrate that through your actions, build more trust, and rock your dream job.


If you cultivate these beliefs and attitude, you can’t help but build rapport with people.


Step 4: Go to the first bar on your list and make some friends.


The more relationships you cultivate with members of the establishment, the stronger your rapport will be with each individual.


So before reaching out to a decision maker, go to the bar and strike up a conversation with your bartender or server. If you already know the bartender or server, make friends with another team member.


Before we dive into actionable steps you can take to develop rapport, here’s a rapport-building mindset that you will want to adopt:


“He/she who is of few needs, and is easy to serve, swiftly finds rapport.”

— The Buddha said something like this


Generally, the best way I’ve found to build rapport with a team member at a hospitality establishment is…


  1. Show genuine appreciation for the product they present to you.


For example, if someone puts a cocktail in front of me, I’ll enthusiastically say “Ooo! Yummy!” (Might not be your style, and that’s okay–find what works for you).


This type of appreciation says, “I’m not a judgy asshole, and I appreciate what you do.”


Basically, people will feel safe around you, think you’re cool (or, if you’re like me, kind of a goof).


Once they’re warmed up to you and your presence…


2. Observe the bartender to see if they’re open to a conversation. See if you can follow their lead.


Don’t make any assumptions about your bartender. He or she might not want to talk. Despite the stereotype, not all bartenders are extroverted alphas who want to talk and talk and talk.


Also pay attention to how busy they are.


3. If you think the bartender is open to chatting, ask a question or two. If not, simply be well-mannered and tip well.


Again, I’d ease into the conversation with general, open-ended questions…


  • You been bartending for long?
  • Have you worked at other spots in town?


If you don’t think the bartender’s up for chatting, come back in a day or two and try again.


4. Ask them their name, and shake hands.


Asking for someone’s name shows confidence, and it shows you see them as more than a cog in a machine.


Do this as early as you can, because the earlier you do it, the more opportunities you’ll have to actually use their name.



That said, sometimes the most appropriate time might be just as you’re about to leave. Feel it out.


5. Actively listen to them. This is the most effective way to demonstrate that you’re genuine.


Be engaged — this means that your body language is at attention, it’s alert, and you’re ready to receive whatever they’re saying.


Make direct eye contact, and smile with your eyes to show that you’re genuine.


Nod at key moments when they’re trying to make a point. Be careful not to nod excessively, though, as this suggests over-eagerness (which is another form of neediness).


6. When the time is right, mention your interest in joining their team.


You don’t want to push yourself on the establishment, but you don’t want to wait too long before making your intentions clear, either. If the staff you know is warm to you, mention your interest.


A great way to seed your interest in a job is to ask a question like, “Working here is actually a dream of mine. How did you end up here? I’d love to be a part of what you’ve got going on.”


Finally, ask, “Is there a good person I could send my resume to? Printed or email?” Then, follow their advice! You’re getting closer to getting that job as a bartender at your dream bar!


7. Don’t leave yet!


Once you’ve got this info, don’t leave. If you leave now, it’ll feel like an insincere transaction to the person you’ve been speaking with. Keep building your relationship before you take off.


But when you do drop that resume to that hiring manager, you can say…


“[Bartender/server name] suggested I reach out to you about joining your team.”


Mention your connection that you made when you finally reach out to the hiring manager. The manager might talk to the bartender about you, and your new friend will have the chance to vouch for your coolness 😎.


If you’ve followed all these steps, you’ve just planted the seeds for a real relationship — not a mere transaction.


Part 3: Take a supporting role.


Since this is your dream bartending job we’re talking about here and not just any old job, you might have to start lower on the org chart than you prefer. If, in your conversations or interview, a staff member says you don’t have the qualifications they need, or they don’t have an opening at the level you want, offer to take a supporting role.


Imagine you’re the hiring manager…


You’re interviewing someone without much experience and they’re obviously eager to serve, but you don’t want to hand them the keys to the kingdom yet. Then they say, “I’d love to be a part of your establishment; is there anything more entry-level I can do so I can learn the ropes or demonstrate my ethic?”


Also, if you can show that you’re actively investing in your own education on your own time, that goes a long way. You don’t expect THEM to teach you everything. You have the drive and initiative to learn on your own. Good sign.


How do you feel about the potential hire now? You might feel flattered, or appreciative.


Begin actively investing in your bartending education, today.  Become a high-performance bartender with the Nimble Bar School.


So now let’s get back to you, the job hunter. If you run into this lack-of-experience obstacle, offer to take a supporting role. Hey, you could even start out bussing tables for a while to build deeper relationships. When shifts get slow, you can pick up some skills behind the bar. Or offer to volunteer a few hours a week to learn new skill sets.


The power of offering to stage


Another approach you could take–before even mentioning an interest in a job–is requesting to do a stage shift. This is where you work for free as an intern or apprentice so that you can learn from them.


This request is best made of the primary point of contact by simply asking, “would it be possible to do a stage shift with you/your head bartender?”


This is a great low-barrier and low-commitment way for you to determine whether it’s a good fit, deepen your rapport, and show them your commitment.


Pro tip: If you have a great attitude in a stage shift, you’ve set a great foundation for being at the top of the list when there’s an opening at that establishment.


Even if they don’t accept your offer to stage, the mere willingness you show by making the offer is powerful. This kind of devotion and determination goes a long way.


Part 5: Followup followup followup followup


Ok. You’ve built some relationships at the first bar on your list. It’s up to you to keep yourself in their sphere of awareness.There’s a good chance that, if they don’t have a position the first day you show up, they’ll have one in the future. But if you never come back, they’ll forget about you and someone else will get that job you want and already put effort into.



Keep showing up. Get to know those same people you met the first time you walked into the bar, and then get to know them better. What do they like or dislike? What do they do outside of work? And don’t bring up your job search every single time; it gets annoying. When people feel like you’re interested in them for them, and not just what they have to offer you, they’ll reciprocate the friendship.


Now, do the same with the second bar on your list. And then the third.


There’s a reason we had you make a list of ten bars instead of just one. You’ve gotta cast a wide net. You might not have months to wait for a job to open up at the number one choice on your list, so you’d better have more than one option.


Thankfully, if you’ve followed our advice so far, you’ve got nine more choices! Start again with the second bar and follow the steps above. Then the third bar. Don’t put all your eggs in one basket. (I don’t actually know why that’s a saying. Is it cause if you drop the basket all the eggs will be cracked?) Anyway, you get the idea.


If you follow these strategies for two bars instead of just one, you double your chances at getting a job as a bartender. Three bars, triple your chances. Four bars… you get the idea!


At the same time, you’re actually being intentional about your search. You’ve narrowed the list of dozens of bars in a city down to 10, which allows you to focus your efforts instead of ‘spraying and praying.’


Then, when you land your dream job, let us know!

Or reach out to us in the meantime to share your journey or ask for advice. We’re here to help.


By Nimble Bar Company

The Nimble Bag of Bartending Tricks

The Nimble Bag of Bartending Tricks

How To Exude Confidence Behind The Bar

Bartenders need to project confidence. Our ability to do so puts our guests at ease, gains their trust, and gives them permission to have a good time. Master these bartending tricks and you’ll be oozing confidence and blowing your guests away in no time.

Years ago, I was working my way through a speedy seven drink chit, when I suddenly realized that all 7 guests around the bar were silently watching me work. They were transfixed. With all eyes on me, it dawned on me that in that exact moment, I had the power to transform these guests’ experience with a few simple-but-powerful bartending tricks.

Now, when I say tricks, I really mean movements. I’m talking basic things you can do with your tools and your drinks that’ll captivate guests and shift their experience from mediocre to mindblowing. I’ll share some of these tricks right here in this article.

Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to employ these bartending tricks subtly. Quietly. Like a ninja.

But before we get to the meat of the matter, we need to get one thing straight:

As bartenders, we never use loud noises, or do anything too ‘peacock-y’ to entertain our guests.

We don’t want to disrupt our guests or take their attention away from their conversations, but by using these functional movements in an unobtrusive way, your bar skills and stylish flair will make their experience more memorable. Whether guests decide to watch or choose to focus on something else, at least the decision will be theirs.

Bartending is a Dance

For the sake of this exercise, think of bartending the same way you’d think of salsa (the dance, not the condiment). Certain steps and methods are the same across nearly all styles of salsa; it’s when you create your own movements and personal style that you start to really build on those basics. The tricks I’m about to teach you are going to help shape your own personal style and build on the basic bartending strategies that you already have (and if you don’t, you can learn them at the Nimble Bar School).

But before you start flinging your spoons in the air during your next shift, I recommend that you give yourself a couple of months to practice these bartending tricks at home. You can do so by doing the drills described each of the videos below.

As you read through this article, bear in mind that these tricks are just the beginning. In time, we’ll show you even more movements that you can add to your repertoire.

Trick #1: Tin Flips

If you’re totally new to bartending tricks, this is where you’ll want to start. You’ll use this trick a lot — like, nightly.

The goal of the tin flip is to get the tin where you need it to be as quickly as possible.



In the video, I move pretty fast. You’ll probably want to start out slow to get the hang of the movement. Notice how I roll the tin over the back of my hand. This might take a little work. Be sure to practice in a place where you won’t break anything if you drop the tin. And make sure the tin’s empty, too…

Once you’ve mastered the tin, you can also use the trick on other tools, like spoons and bottles.

Trick #2: Tin Pivots

Tin pivots are the next movement to master because they can be used in combination with tin flips. The key here as you spin the tin horizontally is to get your thumb and fingers out of the way. Then, you can spin the tin on the ball of your hand.

These pivots are extremely versatile and can be used on bottles, assembled Boston shakers, and various glassware.



After you get the hang of the pivot, try combining the move with the flip. Flip the tin first, and then pivot,before setting it down. Don’t be afraid to make mistakes- it’s part of the fun!

For one final variation, try pivoting your shaker after you seal it for a greater effect.


Trick #3: Shake & Stir

(aka: double shaking and double stirring)

After you’ve built your drinks, you can shake one drink and stir another at the same time. Kind of like a more advanced version of the belly rub + head pat at the same time.

Nothing communicates confidence like actions that clearly say, “I know what I’m doing; no big deal” and that’s exactly what the shake & stir is all about.

After you’ve built your drinks, you can shift up your performance gears by shaking one drink and stirring another at the same time- kind of like a more advanced version of the belly-rub-head-pat.

The trick to this trick, if you will, is getting your spoon all the way to the bottom of your tin, otherwise, you’ll spill the drink.



Trick #4: Pour ‘Cuts’

The way most bartenders cut off their pours is- well… boring. They pour into a jigger and tentatively, gently lift the bottle away. Tentative and gentle? Doesn’t exactly exude confidence, now does it. You can easily add some boldness to your work and spice up an otherwise boring pour with a couple of super simple techniques.

The first cut is called a ‘swoop.’ Why, pray tell? Because, fair bartender, you must swoop thy bottle.



The Swoop

Here’s what you need to do to pull off a stellar swoop:

After you make your pour, let the bottom of the bottle (now at the top since you’ve turned the bottle over) fall to the side until the bottle’s weight turns everything right side up. Then, swoop the bottle around- like I did in the video- to keep the rest of the liquid in the bottle as you finish the pour.

Notice in the video how I’m holding the neck of the bottle between my index and middle fingers; then, I use my thumb to turn the bottle over. This method makes everything look much smoother and makes the move miles easier to pull off.


The Bounce

Try this for a second:

Imagine having a salt shaker in your hand. Are you with me? Now imagine shaking that salt shaker over a big plate of fries. That movement you’re doing? That’s the bounce. Now, you’ll be trying to pull of a bounce with a bottle- not a salt shaker. To make it work, you’ll need to pull the bottle up from the bounce at the bottom, then flip it over (right-side-up) to stop your pour.

Notice how I’m holding the bottle the same way I was during the swoop. You definitely don’t have to; I just think it’s easier for different types of bounces- but you can play around with it and make it your own. For maximum pro effect, be sure to keep the labels of the bottles facing your guests while you perform these cuts.

These elegant flourishes bring flow to your style. And, with a little practice, you can perform cuts with the tin after you’ve poured your drink.


Trick #5: Spoon Flair

You’re going to reach for a spoon at least 60 times a night, so you might as well make it fun for you and your guests.right?

My all-time favorite spoon tricks are the flip from the glass or the spin, both of which are very similar to the tin flip and tin pivot.

The spoon flip is actually a little easier than the tin flip because you’ve got a long, thin spoon to grab onto after you complete the trick. The spin, on the other hand, is a little more challenging.
To get started, try spinning the spoon around your index finger (don’t expect it to work the first time; keep practicing, you’ll get there).



Bringing It All Together…

Ok. We’ve covered the tin flip, the tin pivot, the shake and stir, two different types of cuts, and spoon flair. That’s a lot to take in, so don’t feel like you’ve got to master all of these at once. Just like shuffling a deck of cards or learning to whistle, take it slow and stick with it and eventually you’ll get it. Practice, practice, practice.

If you give yourself time to master these bartending tricks, you’ll be 100% more entertaining than 99% of other bartenders (how d’ya like them apples?). Your movements will communicate confidence, show your guests a great time, and even help you set the tone for your night.

Want more?

We coach professional bartenders to master their craft and become leaders. Interested? Click here to find out more about the Nimble Bar School.

By Nimble Bar Company

3 Steps To Win When People Seem To Suck

3 Steps To Win When People Seem To Suck

How to reframe any interaction so it works for you, not against you.


When you work behind the wood, you’ll interact with more people in one night than many interact with in an entire month.

Sounds great, right?

You get to hone in on your communication skills, meet interesting people, and build your network.

But sometimes people just seem to suck- and (you know, since you’re human and everything) a string of these negative interactions can serve to seriously bum you out.

So, what do you do?

Rather than let a few lousy interactions ruin your night, you can reframe interactions. Use these 3 steps to turn those negative experiences into positives:

Step 1: Choose your thoughts

Here’s the deal:

Our stories, fears, insecurities, worldviews, and desires determine our values, thoughts, beliefs, and behavior (phew- that was a mouthful).

These defining narratives end up affecting us whenever we interact with others.

Our guests are no different. They act the way they do because of their own defining narratives.

Unfortunately, many personal narratives are rooted in fear and insecurities, and bartenders often experience the nasty results.

We want patrons to feel comfortable and unguarded, but sometimes the freedom we encourage means interactions can really, really suck.

Here’s a perfect example from just the other night:

A man in his early 50’s sat down at the bar…

Me: Hey! How’s it going?

(Naturally, I expected a warm response to my warm intro…)

Him: Gin and tonic.

(…but I got ignored instead.)

Me: …. Thanks for asking… I guess I’ll just go fuck myself, then.

I responded in my head; not out loud, of course (even though I really, really wanted to).

The problem was, even though I bit my tongue, I had already allowed my thoughts to influence my mood- and my thoughts were toxic.

So this guy, for a brief moment, had totally derailed my mood.

Descartes said, “I think, therefore I am.” I’ll take it a step further: “How I think makes me who I am.”

And guess what?

We let people influence the way we think all the time.

We can’t control other people, but we can control how we respond (both mentally and verbally) and how much influence others have on our thoughts.

Patrons used to affect my thoughts as easily as a fat guy affects the water level in a bathtub.

Seriously, just the way someone walked through the door of my restaurant could affect my mood.

Every patron brings in a different energy, and those energies influenced me a ton.

A couple examples of personas that especially affected me:

  • Someone who’s hesitant as he walks into the room and has a passive energy.
  • Someone who walks into the room, patiently waits to be greeted, and has a kind energy.
  • Someone walks right past the “Please Wait To Be Seated” sign and has an impatient energy.
  • Someone who walks in the room full of piss and vinegar, like he owns the place, and has an arrogant energy.

Truth-bomb alert:

I have the power to choose how to evaluate and respond to these energies. I can choose to be influenced by my evaluation, or I can choose to take control of my thoughts.

(This is honestly one of the most valuable things I’ve learned in this job.)

So, let’s get practical.

How do we navigate this ebb and flow of human energy? More to the point, how do we manage our own energy to maintain peak performance behind the bar?

Question your reactions

When you think, “Man, this person’s negative,” take notice. Reframe.

Stop and ask, “Is this really how I want to think about this person?”. That simple question can change your own mood and the flow of the interaction.

Reframing changes your thoughts, your thoughts changes your mood, and, together, thoughts and mood change who you are.

Likewise, if you walk into work with a negative attitude, just acknowledge it; then ask yourself if you want to stay that way.

This kind of reflection can totally change the course of your night.

Whenever you notice yourself slipping into negative energy, just pretend there’s a big *Energy Reset Button* in your brain, and give it a push.

Sounds simple, right? It is.

Step 2: Stop judging and start understanding.

Remember, every single human behaves the way they do because of their own unique backstory.

If you want to reframe your interactions, ask yourself, “If I had the SAME stories as that person, would I behave any differently?”

Possibly not.

We can’t change someone else’s backstory (or their subsequent attitude); we can only change our own thoughts.

So, if you find yourself in need of an attitude adjustment, get this mantra running around your brain:

Don’t judge; practice empathy.

When you put yourself in someone else’s shoes and experience life from their perspective, you’re practicing empathy.

Here’s a powerful tool you can use to help you:

The Empathy Map

A simple empathy map.

We borrowed this idea from Business Model Generation who use something called an ‘empathy map’ to better understand end users and meet their needs.

Luckily, you don’t need to have the empathy map in front of you to reframe interactions.

When guests are rubbing you up the wrong way, do a quick empathy audit by asking the following questions:

  • What do they care about that you don’t care about?
  • What do they see that you don’t see?
  • What do they believe that you don’t believe?
  • How do they speak differently from you?

Just apply the map to everyone you see.

Kinda like this…

Here’s how it works:

When you pause to imagine another person’s internal world, you’ll understand rather than judge.

You’ll react with kindness and positivity.

You’ll change your mood, and you’ll change the interaction.

Empathy is the first step to developing meaningful connections with those you serve.

Step 3: Take charge by practicing proactive authentic enthusiasm

When that arse-hole man in the bar ignored my greeting the other night, I completely let his inconsiderate behaviour take hold of me.

What good did that do? Absolutely nothing.

When we react to a guest without thought, we’re allowing their energy to control the interaction. Even if they’re the one who brings negative energy into the bar, it’s our own reactions that contribute to what we call a ‘negative feedback loop’.

On the flip side, when we consciously choose the way we respond and the energy we project, we break that feedback loop. 

So, what if you want to create a positive interaction?

Choose to respond with authentic enthusiasm. Not only will your guest benefit, you’ll also benefit yourself.

I can tell you from personal experience that I don’t always feel like greeting someone with enthusiasm. But when I choose enthusiasm over negativity, the interaction goes much, much better. What’s more, I feel a lot better, too.

In fact, sometimes guests will change their own moods simply through your positive questions and enthusiastic energy.

A helpful way to remember this:

Every guest presents a powerful opportunity for a meaningful connection.

The way you engage that guest has the power to change their mood.

Hey, listen, I’ve been there.

I’ve arrived at work with a crappy mood, and I’ve arrived at work with a great mood only to be brought down by a nasty customer.

The thing is, you absolutely can take control of your mood, and your customers will notice and respond positively. And you can reframe any interaction.

Give these three steps a shot. We promise you’ll like the results.

Want more?

We coach professional bartenders to master their craft and become leaders. Interested? Click here to find out more about the Nimble Bar School.


Wedding beverages

By Nimble Bar Company

How to Wow Your Wedding Guests With Amazing Beverages

People drink more at weddings than at any other social occasion. But couples planning weddings rarely take the time to ensure their guests have an awesome experience with those wedding beverages. Often, couples merely opt for whatever their venue has in stock.


If you spend so much time and money meticulously planning out details like decor, cake, food, attire, and flowers, shouldn’t you put at least as much effort into the drinks you’re serving? After all, what do friends ask when they’re headed to a wedding? “Will there be an open bar?”

If you’re planning a wedding, here’s the question you can ask that will lead to an amazing beverage experience:

“Will the drinks we serve tell a story?”

After all, the wedding itself will tell a story about you as a couple (that’s one reason why people spend so much money planning the occasion). Every interaction your guests have with you, the other guests, and the environment of your event reflect back on you. The location, the clothing of the wedding party, the lighting, the textures and fabrics on the tables, the centerpieces, the decorations, and everything else color your story.

I know couples who spend hours and hours preparing centerpieces and tiny gifts to send home with their guests. But food and drink influence an experience far more than any gift. Meals engage all the senses: sight, smell, taste, touch, and even sound. How many of these couples focused as much on their drink menu as they do on their centerpieces?

The drinks tell a story about you, too. What do you want your drinks to say about you?

That you’re elegant?




You get the idea!

We recommend that, at minimum, weddings serve beer or cider, wine, and non-alcoholic beverages. Beer or cider for those who don’t drink wine, wine to pair with the food and compliment the wedding’s formality, and any number of sodas, waters, and non-alcoholic ciders for those guests who don’t wish to imbibe. Once you cover these bases, step it up a notch with mixed drinks and cocktails.


Think for a moment about when you or your friends drink beer, and which beers pair with which occasions. What are some common characteristics about these moments? Slightly more on the casual side? How are people dressed? Probably not in formal wear. If you’re out at a pub or micro-brewery, you’re probably drinking something unique. If you’re playing pool in the garage, you’re probably drinking something cheap.

The beers you serve at your weddings will remind your guests of these times. And your guests will unconsciously associate the moods and memories of these events with you and your wedding. In other words, the beers you serve will add to your story.

If you serve mass-market lite beers, your guests will think about playing horseshoe in a backyard and watching a football game. If you serve something more exotic or local, they’ll think of a night out on the town or a more sophisticated culinary adventure. For weddings, we’d highly recommend choosing something specific and unique; avoid the cheap lite stuff. You want your guests to feel special and notice attention to detail.


With the proliferation of the micro-brewery, there’s simply no reason to serve shitty, mass-produced beer. As much as possible, try to serve something local. Run the gamut of flavours and colours by selecting beers from these categories:

  1. Lager → Keep it simple and clean. Your guests will probably consume more lager than any other beer.
  2. Pale ale → A good amount of flavour without palate-shredding hoppiness.
  3. IPA (or lambic) → That said, many people love hoppiness, so keep an IPA on hand. Just as IPAs caught the market by storm in the late 00s, sours look like they’re going to be the beer-nerd’s next favourite thing. Consider adding a lambic (sour) beer to your arsenal, too.
  4. Dark → There’s always a surprisingly high demand for dark beer. When recommending a dark beer, we’ll make an exception to our ‘always choose local’ rule: choose Guinness. It’s the classic crowd-pleaser.

When you serve beer, consider cleanup and consider environmental impact. Always try to use cans over bottles; they’re almost always easier on the environment.

Another efficiency tip: keep the beer on ice in a giant cooler. Your guests can just grab from it and go. A self-serve cooler allows the bartender to focus on making cocktails and engaging guests in other ways.


For better or worse, people perceive wine to be more sophisticated and cultured than beer. Since we’re talking weddings here and weddings are more formal than barbeques, serve your guests some wine. Your wines will tell your guests that you know how to class it up, and that you have great taste.

Don’t worry, though. You don’t need to choose wines that’ll break the bank. Research studies suggest that after a certain price point, there’s not really an increase in enjoyment of a wine. The bottle the wine is served from actually plays a huge role in the drinking experience. What does this mean? Don’t serve wine out of boxes, and stay away from notoriously cheap labels (unless that’s your comedy schtick). But you don’t need to go crazy with $40 bottles, either.

Choosing your wine is simple. Why? The food and the season will determine which grape varietal to use. Just pick labels you like that are appropriate for your food and season and are also within your price range.


Here are some examples of classic dishes and their perfect wine pairings:

Safe Choice Adventurous Choice
Roast, Steaks, Game meat Syrah, Cab, Merlot Zinfandel, Sangiovese
Herbed Chicken, Pork Belly Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling Crisp dry Apple Cider
Sablefish, Ling Cod, Halibut Chardonnay Viognier, Albariño
Salmon, Roasted Vegetables Light Pinot Noir Heavy NZ Pinot Noir, Provence Rosé
Cheese Port, Sauternes California Chardonnay, Champagne
Fruits Shiraz, Grenache Gamay, Chenin Blanc
Shellfish Sauvignon Blanc Torrontes, Sancerre


Wine Tips

  • Big reds need to breathe; uncork 30-40 minutes before dinner service on the tables.
  • Offer red/whites that compliment/contrast the food depending on your menu
  • Port/Sauternes w/dessert & coffee is a lovely touch that doesn’t cost much if you already have servers/caterers


By now you’ve got the gist of how drinks tell a story. Their quality and selection reflect on your taste, sophistication, sense of fun, sense of humor, easy-going-ness, and any number of other qualities.

Your choice of spirits can truly give your guests unforgettable experiences. More guests drink beer and wine on a regular basis than drink spirits. At your wedding, you can offer them something special and, through simple displays and stories, enhance memories they’ll share for years to come.

When it comes to spirits, take your guests on a unique adventure through time and space. Serve spirits from different parts of the world with unique origin stories. Choose liquors from different ages, too. Your bartender or your display can share these unique stories. Such diversions give guests something to do when they aren’t dancing or eating, and give them something very special to remember.

When we offer spirits, we usually serve the following:

  • 4 whiskies — Japanese, American, Scotch, Canadian.
  • Calvados — The French apple brandy.
  • Mezcal — The far-smokier version of tequila from Oaxaca. Made from agave (the plant).
  • Genever — a matlier spirit and the ancestor of modern gin.
  • Sherry — the under-appreciated Spanish fortified wine.

Set up an entire table dedicated to this adventure of spirits. Include a large map of the world. Place the bottles on the map to show the spirits’ geographic origins.


With cocktails, you can really let your personalities shine. You can express yourself through ingredients, colours, garnishes, and names. You can pick names that reflect your sense of humor, your hope for the future, your memories of your guests, and your hopes for your marriage. Choose flavor profiles that run the gamut of tastes, and tell stories with your cocktail menu.

For example, I’m an eternal optimist. So I made the ‘Faulty Optimist’ cocktail and garnished it with this cartoon, printed on edible paper, from Cyanide and Happiness.

Executing Your Cocktails: How to Make Them Efficiently, with Style

This step, like choosing a wine varietal, can be simple. To ensure a great experience, you MUST vet quality bartenders to find someone who can deliver drinks with excellence and panache.

Go to your favourite cocktail bars in town and note your favourite bartenders. Once you’ve created a short-list your three favourites, reach out to them at their bar and offer them the gig.

Because you’re offering an elevated experience to your guests, think of this bartender as more of a consultant than a mere drink-slinger. Bartenders have evolved a great deal from the 70s, 80s, and 90s — they have become true professionals. They’re going to work with you to make sure your drinks are delicious and reflect your personalities.

Your bartender should help you craft a balanced menu and should also be able to help you to name your drinks, source ingredients, and prepare for the night.

Non-Alcoholic Options: A Little Temperance Goes a Long Way

When we make non-alcoholic cocktails, we’re trying to emulate the complexity inherent in spirits. There are a number of ways to do this.

First, consider your soda. 2 liter bottles of Coca-Cola and Sprite are unacceptable. Always try to use artisanal soda pops such as Fentiman’s and New Theatre.

You’ll use syrups that feature fresh ingredients, of course, but don’t forget about shrubs and vinegars. For example, experiment with fruit-flavoured vinegars like pomegranate and grapefruit balsamic, and try cilantro shrubs.

And don’t forget about sparkling and still waters to cover all your bases.

Bringing It All Together: Designing a Sexy Menu

Once you’ve decided on your cocktails, spirits, beer, and wine, it’s time for the funnest part of all — building the menu! Your drink menu gives you the opportunity to create something highly visual that literally tells stories through text. The colors you use, the names you choose for your drinks, and the descriptions you provide all reflect on you. And they give your introverted guests something to read.

While designing a menu may feel overwhelming to some, (I know others of you can’t wait to jump into this) it doesn’t have to. If you’re having trouble creating unique descriptions, use standard text from online searches. Or enlist the help of a clever friend.

No design skills? No problem! Check out The site has tons of free and beautiful templates that you can use to easily make your menus.

Alternatively, if you’d like to leave the menu design to a pro, is chalk full of them.

Conclusion: You Can Do This

(Or We Can Do It For You)

Hopefully, you’ve now got a good understanding of not only why drinks matter but also how you can create an awesome beverage experience. We’ve got a number of other guides that might help you further in our blog.

If you’d like some one-on-one planning help, additional guidance, or someone to simply take care of things for you, we can help with that, too.

By Nimble Bar Company

How to Create a Cocktail Menu That Sells: The Nimble Guide

How to create a cocktail menu: the fundamentals

Our goal in this guide is to teach you how to create a cocktail menu that both you and your guests will love. We’ll give you the building blocks — the fundamentals of menu development — so you can churn ’em out to your heart’s content. After reading this guide, you’ll know:

  • Which ingredients make up the DNA of any cocktail
  • Which drinks make up the ‘drink families’ of all modern cocktails
  • What makes for great, workable mise en place
  • When to source new drinks and rotate out old ones
  • How to break down costs and maximize profitability
  • What a great menu looks like

Want to download the full guide? Click here!

The DNA of every cocktail

Study the DNA — the recipe, proportions, flavor harmonies — of classic cocktails to train your mind and palate to recognize balance. You can then transfer that sensory knowledge to new sets of ingredients. Here are the components that make up the DNA of cocktails:

  • Spirits: Whisky, Rum, Gin, Vodka, Tequila, Mezcal, Brandy, Cachaca, Pisco, Calvados, etc.
  • Lengtheners: Fortified wines: Vermouth, Sherry, Port, Quinquina, Madeira, etc.
  • Liqueur modifiers: Cointreau, St Germain, Apricot liqueur, Domaine de Canton ginger, etc.
  • Amaro modifiers: Aperol, Campari, Fernet Branca, Cynar, Ramazzotti, Averna, etc.
  • Sweeteners: Sugar, honey, agave nectar, maple syrup, demerara, etc.
  • Acids: Lemon, lime, citric acid, etc.
  • Modifying acids: Grapefruit, orange
  • Sodas: Soda, ginger beer, tonic water, etc.
  • Bitters: Angostura aromatic, Regan’s No. 6 orange, Peychaud’s, Scrappy’s cardamom, etc.

These basic ingredients make up basically every cocktail ever. Get these down to understand drink balance and harmony and to create a cocktail menu that rocks.

The five cocktail families

We’ve identified five classic cocktails (Negroni, Sidecar, Old Fashioned, Sour, and Collins) that influence the creation of 99% of all great cocktails. Learn them well. From these five recipes, you’ll begin to see the underlying DNA at work. You can come up with ‘golden ratios’ that you can use for your own drinks, mixing and matching the parts. Kinda like Mr. Potato Head.

Understand the bones of a good classic to train your mind and palate. You’ll recognize balance and transfer that sense of harmony to a new set of ingredients. Once you’re rooted with proven ratios and ingredient pairings, formulating a new drink will be much easier.

Negroni: 1 oz. spirit, 1 oz. amaro modifier, 1 oz. lengthener – or – 1.5 oz. spirit, 3⁄4 oz. amaro modifier, 3⁄4 oz. lengthener

Sidecar: 1 1/2 oz. spirit, 3/4 oz. liqueur modifier, 3/4 oz. acid

Old Fashioned: 2 oz. spirit, 1/3 oz. sweetener, 4-6 dashes of bitters

Sour: 2 oz. spirit, 1 oz. sweetener 1 oz. acid, 2-4 dashes of bitters egg white

Collins: 2 oz. spirit, 1 oz. acid, 1⁄2 oz. sweetener, 1-2 oz. soda

House-made ingredients

Syrups, tinctures, bitters, and infusions — the creative possibilities are limitless. House-made ingredients are a great way to incorporate cool-factor into your drinks, but you need to be mindful of the cost and prep-time. A good rule of thumb is to limit yourself to one house-made ingredient for every two cocktails on the menu.

Using non-alcoholic ingredients for these custom elements can be a great way to flesh out a drink while keeping costs low.

Learn to batch in bulk, and find non-alcoholic solutions to flesh out your recipes so that the main cost comes from the base spirit. And remember, boutique and bespoke ingredients won’t always improve a drink. For example, sometimes the store-bought falernum is better (and more cost effective).

Mise en place and prep

12 step programs can help you stop drinking or smoking, but they won’t help your behind-the-bar efficiency on a Saturday night. When in service, your goal should always be to limit the number of steps necessary to make a drink. This means you should set up your mise en place so that all your tools and ingredients are within an arm’s if at all possible. It also means you should get rid of clutter.

Consider batching certain cocktails that might be labour intensive or very popular, and use syrups to maximize efficiency.

For example, just about anything you muddle can be made into a syrup. If there’s a cocktail that muddles cucumber and basil, consider making a cucumber and basil syrup instead.

And don’t just create a cocktail; create a curated set of movements that flow beautifully and efficiently. Set yourself up for success. Your station should reflect your professionalism and keep you above board all night, no matter what comes at you. This philosophy eliminates bottlenecks, and also impresses your guests.

Naming inspiration

When you bring your staff together to name cocktails, you grow their camaraderie and their passion for selling. Keep things aligned with the feel and energy of the room, but let the inner nerdiness and authenticity of your team shine though. The name of a cocktail is your customers’ first glimpse of the drink. It’s what your customers see on paper. If you make them laugh, feel special for getting a reference, or salivate from your description, you’re doing it right. Tell a story with each sip to entice customers.

When making up a cocktail on-the-fly, put the onus on your guest to name the drink. This gives him a sense of ownership.

Pars and stock levels

It can be tough at the start to feel out what moves on a new menu. Don’t trust one or two services; anomalies happen. Don’t over-commit to product that will sit around forever. Buy conservatively to start, and if a product takes off, adjust your ordering and prep accordingly.

People often think customers will love tons of choices. Research suggests otherwise. The more choices you present to a customer, the more anxiety and overwhelm you cause them.

Seasons and trends

Know the people who sit at your bar and dine in your restaurant. Don’t try and push passionfruit juice and rhubarb smashes when it is cold & shitty outside and people are craving something to warm them up.  Offer a good mix of safe & sell-wells, along with some nerdier options to flex the niche of your establishment. But don’t take your drink program too seriously; cocktails are supposed to be fun and inviting, after all.

Have you ever heard the saying ‘the trend is your friend’? Well it’s absolutely true. We often see bartenders banging their heads against the wall trying to come up with the next big thing. But from a business standpoint, something that is currently trending is something that simply works.

When creating new drinks, we love to start with the classics and imbue them with seasonality. For example, a fig and winter-spiced negroni variation in the winter and a watermelon collins in the summer.

Sourcing and rotation

While you want to imbue your drinks with seasonality and source fresh as much as possible, you don’t need to go on a grand excursion out to the middle of nowhere to forage for ingredients. Sometimes you can simply have a gander at what’s inside your walk-in fridge. Not sure what’s in-season? Your chef can be a phenomenal resource to help you out. He / she can also provide ideas for flavour pairings.

And if you don’t have unlimited access to a chef, pick up a copy of The Flavor Bible.

Funky, weird ingredients help a new menu pop and get people talking. BUT, when your supplier no longer carries your funky ingredient and you have to 86 it a week after launching, that doesn’t look good. Take a trip through your walk-in, or have a talk with your chef to come up with ways to move existing overstock that’s just sitting latent. You’ll make the bosses happy and increases the bottom line for the establishment.


If you know exactly what a drink costs to make, you’ll focus more on the profitability of that drink. While bars and restaurants can provide romance — and we’re there to provide a beautiful experience — we’re there to generate profit FIRST.

Often, when people realize that the cost of a cocktail’s ingredients is only $2.00 – $4.00, they wonder why the markup is 100%-300%. But that drink pays for a lot of other expenses. Here are some of them:

  • Rent
  • Glassware
  • Labour
  • Garnish
  • Ice
  • Tools
  • Cocktail napkins, etc.

Cost breakdown of a classic margarita



2 oz. El Jimador Reposado


3/4 oz. Cointreau


1 oz. Lime juice


1/4 oz. Agave nectar


Cost to restaurant: $4.07

Price to customer: $12.00

Pour cost: 34%

What this means: To earn one dollar on a margarita, the restaurant must first spend 34 cents.

But there’s a bit more to it. Let’s say that a classic margarita takes 1 minute for a bartender to prepare. And, of course, the drink will be served in a glass, probably with a napkin… Here are the other costs that eat away at a bar’s profit margins:

Other expenses


Cocktail napkin


Labour (bartender only, based on $11.00/hour)


Rent per hour


TOTAL cost to restaurant = $4.46

ACTUAL cost as proportion of price= 38%

Cost breakdown of a Hidalgo La Gitana Manzanilla

If you give your team a glimpse of the business side of the glass, they’ll think more like owners and managers. Break down the costs of the crazy orchid garnish or the 3 oz., 7 ingredient tiki drink. Sometimes you can feel like a kid in a candy store when selecting ingredients for your new menu cocktail… but remember, the place still needs to make money.

An example menu template

Cocktail Menus and the paradox of choice

Many establishments make menus that have more than 10 cocktails. People often think customers will love tons of choices. Research suggests otherwise. The more choices you present to a customer, the more anxiety and overwhelm you cause them. People simply don’t want to make decisions because making decisions is mentally taxing. Aim for a curated, lean, and well-rounded cocktail menu.

There you have it!

The foundations you need to create a great cocktail menu. Don’t forget to download the guide

if you haven’t already!

By Nimble Bar Company

The Best Bartending Book of 2017

As a mentor of mine said, the problem with bar and cocktail books today is that many of them are created by opportunists. Cocktails are trendy and authors want to make a profit. We certainly respect the profit motive, but as professionals we want to read something with substance.

At the Nimble Bar Co., we’ve combed through an untold number of bartending books in search of excellence, and we’re happy to say we’ve found it. Here’s the best bartending book of the year.

If you’re going to read one book from 2017 on bartending and business, this is it…

Meehan’s Bartender Manual

Whether you’re a bartender who’s just getting started, an at-home enthusiast, or a full-fledged bar consultant, this book will be your trusty steed on the dusty, bandit-ridden trails of cocktail mixing.

Who’s ‘Meehan’?

Best known for creating the PDT bar in New York City (you know, the one you enter through a phone booth in a hot-dog stand), Jim Meehan is now primarily an author, speaker, and consultant on all things bar and cocktail-related.

Check out this video for a taste of his wisdom and reason:

What 2017’s best bartending book will teach you

The industry at large

First, the book teaches you the service and spirits industry from the macro, 30,000ft level. Bartenders often focus on recipes, operations, and technique to the exclusion of the greater industry. But if you understand the industry at large, you can make better business decisions.

For example, If you’re an industry-insider that understands the business incentives of local distillers, you might be able to cook up some cool partnerships. Meehan’s Bartending Manual will get you thinking along those lines.

Understanding the industry is kind of like bartending and mixing with your head up, rather than mixing with your head buried in your tin and ice-well.

Cocktails In 4D

Yes, the book contains recipes. But the drink recipes in Meehan’s do more than tell you what to mix. You’ll learn where the cocktails come from, the logic behind them, how to make them optimally, and where they fit in the overall cocktail lexicon. This type of extensive knowledge aids in your menu development, drink selection, and customer-facing expertise.

And Meehan isn’t dogmatic. You’ll learn essential recipes, but you’ll also learn when to go your own way — Meehan includes lots of little ‘hacks’ you can use to improve the drinks.

Unsung all-stars

Meehan’s highlights many of the amazing people who make up our industry. Bartending isn’t just an in-between job, and the public is recognizing it more and more as a respectable career. This book reinforces our industry’s professionalism through showcasing bartenders and operators who are actually really fucking smart and chock full of wisdom.

And many of the leaders Meehan profiles are very accessible. With a well-phrased email, you could probably strike up a conversation and find even more guidance.

[Sidebar: If you want more guidance than can be gleaned from a single email or phone call, think of a way to add value to the relationship — maybe offer your time.]

Bar Design & Interior Inspiration

Is your workspace intuitive? Is your floor plan unique? Do they inspire you and your customers? Are they pleasing to the eye?

Good floor plan and interior design appeals to our emotions and delights us. It inspires our customers and enhances their experience. Meehan’s will inspire you to enhance your design game and give you some tips on where to start.

The book highlights a number of bar and restaurant floor plans that work well and might work for you, too. Through these examples, Meehan helps bartenders and bar consultants understand good design.

“You can not understand good design if you don’t understand people: design is made for people.” — Dieter Rams

Reverse-engineered a cocktail ‘chit’

Bartenders have a stereotype: the extroverted alpha-type character that’s always the life of the party. But many would never guess the essential ingredients that make a great bartender: sound mental models and effective systems. If you’ve been around the industry long enough, you’ve watched in awe as a skilled, attentive, and personable — but quiet! — bartender flawlessly executed his orders.

In his book, Meehan teaches his readers to break down a complicated chit and teaches a greater lesson in the process: a lot of the work results from the systems we create for ourselves.

A great example: when building a cocktail, we start by building the drink with the smallest and cheapest ingredients first so that we don’t compromise the more expensive ingredients if we put in too much. This means bitters and syrups first, and our main spirits last.

Meehan takes 50ish pages to essentially reverse-engineer a bar’s layout and functionality. And he does it all through the framework of effectively managing a chit.

My favourite line: “In some countries, shaking two drinks at once is frowned on, but wherever time is a constraint, efficiency trumps tradition.”

So buy the book already! Or drop us your email if you’d like reviews like this sent (occasionally) to your inbox.

And if you’re wondering what other books we considered…

Our runner-up: By the Smoke and the Smell: My Search for the Rare and Sublime on the Spirits Trail

Reprinted with permission from Meehan’s Bartender Manual, by Jim Meehan, copyright © 2017 by Mixography Inc. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.

Photographs copyright © 2017 by Doron Gild

Illustrations copyright © 2017 by Gianmarco Magnani

By thenimblebar

How To Max Out Your Online Reputation

Did you know that a small improvement in your online reputation can grow your revenue by at least 5%? Well, now you’ve got research from the Harvard Business Review to prove it. There’s a flip side, too. If you have a less-than-stellar reputation online, more popular companies will suck your customers away. If you’re under 4 stars on Yelp or Google, you’ve probably felt this vortex effect. 

So we’ve established that you should prioritize your online reputation. It truly affects your bottom line. But how do you max it out? How do you get 5 star reviews over and over and over again? Here’s a proven method, courtesy of the Nimble Bar Co.

It’s a marathon, not a sprint

Before we jump in, remember that a great online reputations take years to build and seconds to destroy. We’re gonna focus on the ‘build’ part of that. Our methods will speed up the process, but it’ll still take months before you see those Yelp stars begin to flow, Google+ likes increase, or positive Facebook mentions explode. The key here is perseverance and daily consistency.

6 daily proactive steps

Note the word ‘Proactive’ in the title of this section. If you’re reactive in your reputation management, you’re at the whims of the public. Proactively set goals and plan your own course. Next stop, sterling reputation!

Analyze your guest interactions with Zenreach

Guests love free WiFi, and you can leverage that love to collect important information. Zenreach uses guest wifi logins to analyze spending habits. It also collects guest contact info so you can send your patrons special offers and customized marketing material.

Most importantly, Zenreach measures your customer return rate and your new customers per day. These two metrics identify customer satisfaction. And what gets measured gets managed.

You know your regulars by site. But with Zenreach, you can interact with them via email and social media. You can give them special offers, or reward them for bringing in new customers.

The software also acts as a canary in the coal mine. You’ll know if your regulars show up less, and when your new customer visits dry up; you’ll have the numbers, not just a gut feeling. You’ll know if you need to change something. Likewise, you’ll know if you’re on the right track.

Quarantine reviews using

If you’re serious about your business’ online reputation, then you need to implement a system that streamlines the process of getting reviews, addressing them, and deploying them across various review sites.

My Testimonial Engine is a software as a service product that does just that. It collects all your reviews in one place, quarantines new reviews so that you can manage them and productively address them before they go ‘live’ on various platforms, and then it enables you to deploy those reviews anywhere you want.

The beauty of this is that instead of being ‘reactive’ when you see a negative review pop up on one your channels, you can instead face the issue in a much more grounded way because your vision is not clouded by “how does this look?!” When we’re worried about looking good, we often aren’t thinking clearly.

Test new initiatives

Thanks to Zenreach, you’re now measuring your reputation every day using real numbers: spending habits, return visits, and new customer visits. Not to mention, you’re notified when anyone leaves you a review. So now you can try out reputation-building initiatives. Keep the ones that work, and change the ones that don’t. Here’s what to test:

Make social deposits

Make deposits into your bank account of social capital. Social capital is the goodwill people in your community have for you. You increase that goodwill by giving, and you don’t always have to give money. Here are some ‘gifts’ you can give to your online social friends that will build social capital:

    • Compliment people in your community on social media who you appreciate.
    • Funny quotes or stories that highlight your brand and are fun to read / watch.
    • Find someone online whom you know visited your restaurant, and ask them a specific question about their visit. Like, “How was your [specific dish that they ordered] cooked? Did you notice the [specific ingredient] pop in [a specific dish they had]?”
    • Tell a story about a meaningful experience that was had in your establishment

Create likeable online interactions

Be likeable online. This is easier than it sounds. The main way to be likeable is to engage others. That’s right; the primary reason many businesses aren’t likeable online is their lack of engagement. They simply post stuff. But they don’t respond to customer comments or say thank you for mentions. Social media contains the word ‘social’ for a reason.

If you’re a bar or restaurant, people mention you online whether you realize it or not. You can use tools like Hootsuite to read all your mentions.. Make a point to check for mentions, like them, and respond to them every single time. Take it a step further and delight those who leave a comment by entertaining, informing, or demonstrating something for them.

A word of caution: when responding to negative reviews, take some time. The last thing you want to do is respond when you’re emotionally charged. We naturally want to ‘one-up’ the jerk who left us an unfair negative review. While it’s important to stand your ground, it’s very easy to come off as an asshole even to the people who are just skimming the reviews.

I’ve read cringe-worthy responses from managers and owners that serve no other purpose than make the commenter wrong and look stupid. You may want to write a long-winded explanation of what the situation was, but unless you’re an extremely entertaining writer, nobody cares.

The formula is simple: offer an apology for their experience, invite them to have a conversation about said experience, and lend them an olive-branch to come back. This communicates that your doors are always open and that your establishment is managed by an adult who can take a bit of criticism.

Ask for reviews

When a guest has an amazing experience at your establishment, ask them to leave a review. 9 times out of 10 people don’t leave positive reviews simply because they never think to or can’t be bothered.

We’ve seen bars and restaurants add up to five 5-star Yelp reviews a day by simply asking. I know restaurants that go days without ANY reviews. Imagine the impact of even just one 5-star review every day over the span of a few months. Higher overall rating, and more revenue.

Maintain a blog/vlog

Your establishment isn’t the only medium through which you can provide a valuable service. Using your own online platform is a powerful way to scale the value that patrons experience in your establishment.

If you’re like most people, when you think about starting a blog, you groan and think, “So much work!!!” Blogging doesn’t have to be hard. You can start by publishing something. Anything.

First, choose your platform. Next, start a live video on your phone and write a summary of the video. The more frequently you do this, the more you’ll engage your community rather than simply exist within it.

We recommend Facebook Live because of the user-friendly interface, and you can easily download the video and repurpose it on other platforms. Let’s put this into perspective. Imagine you run a live campaign everyday for three months. Then run the exact same campaign on a different platform one year later. The second time, though, you don’t have to create anything new. It’s the modern-day equivalent of publishing a book.

The main difference is that in the digital world, you can get WAY more granular in terms of data, so you know exactly what worked and what didn’t.

Most importantly, don’t get discouraged. Traction takes time, and we’re in the online reputation-building game for the long haul. Commit to going live every single day for 3 months, and then ask people you trust for feedback. Review some of your posts that receive the most and the least engagement once the 3 months are up.

Imagine all of the amazing things you could talk about every single day! Maybe one day you talk about the special your chef put together. The next, you showcase your bartender. What’s more, because the video is live, you are opening up a real conversation.

The bottom line

If you can engage with your community and show them you care, you’ll build a bulletproof online reputation. Not only will you grow your positive reviews, but you’ll also deter negative reviewers who notice your glowing fan base.

Have more questions about building your online reputation? Let’s talk!

By thenimblebar

A Beginner’s Guide To Martinis (and Their Variations)

Martinis for beginners. In the world of cocktails, the martini holds a special place. The mention of its name conjures its distinct glass and garnish, as well as images of its distinctive drinkers. People of influence  casually saunter to the bar and say, “Martini, please”:  businessmen and women, well-to-do housewives, and, of course, James Bond.

The martini, however, is more than just a pretty face. It’s a cocktail of substance;  each variation possesses unique, and, you might even say, magical qualities.

In this article, I’ll describe six different martinis, what you should know about them, and what occasions to make them for.

The Introduction Martinis

Meet the ‘introduction martinis.’ These cocktails best suit two types of drinkers:

  • Those who haven’t developed a taste for spirit-driven cocktails (cocktails made up only of booze — no citrus or added sugar).
  • Those who think that vermouth in a martini is gross. These drinkers are stuck chillin’ in the 90s, when bartenders would leave bottles of vermouth (a fortified wine that is NOT shelf stable) on the back shelf for years. Old vermouth is gross.

The introduction martinis are:

The Fifty-Fifty Martini

A.k.a The pre-prohibition martini or the original dry martini.

The recipe for the fifty-fifty was most common prior to prohibition. As the name suggests, the fifty-fifty contains equal parts dry vermouth and london dry gin. The fifty-fifty also contains some citrus influence via orange bitters and a lemon twist.

I made this for a novice drinker a few years ago. When he tasted it, he exclaimed, “I’d always order a martini if it tasted like this!”

I don’t think he said this because I did an amazing job mixing the drink. I think it was mostly a matter of priming his palate by giving him an idea of what he was going to taste. Don’t get me wrong; formula and execution matter. But so does priming a guest’s brain and palate.

With the fifty-fifty/pre-prohibition martini, guests will smell a very pronounced lemony-freshness on the nose followed by clean, cold, and strong juniper. The drink finishes off with subtle orange-bitter notes. The equal measure of dry vermouth significantly softens the punch of the gin.


1.5 oz gin (preferably Plymouth gin)

1.5 oz dry vermouth

2 dashes of orange bitters (Regan’s or Angostura Orange)

Stir and strain into a chilled cocktail coupe.

Garnish with lemon twist  — be sure to express the oils over the drink.

The Vesper Martini

Created by Ian Fleming in  James Bond, 007.

The vesper martini provides a fantastic introduction to mixed drinks because its origin story is steeped in pop culture. First, it’s directly connected to  James Bond, 007. Second, the vesper is kind of like James Bond took the traditional martini and said “I’m gonna do it my way!”

James Bond’s martini sticks it to the traditional in 3 ways:

  • It mixes gin AND vodka (wtf?).
  • It adds Kina Lillet, which is in a family of fortified wine that is different from vermouth (the primary difference is quinine in Kina Lillet versus wormwood in vermouth). The closest approximation to Kina Lillet widely available today (2017) is Cocchi Americano.
  • It’s shaken, not stirred!

Bond also made up his own ratio of 3 parts gin to 1 part vodka to 1/2 part Kina Lillet. And since it’s 007 we’re talking about, he probably considered 1 part equal to 1 ounce.

While folks often refer to the vesper as James Bond’s martini, Ian Fleming actually only had 007 order it once in all of 14 Bond books. Most of the time, Bond would order a vodka martini (which is technically a kangaroo cocktail) with an olive.

In 1986, the makers of Kina Lillet removed quinine, which made the Kina Lillet a completely different product — Lillet Blanc. These days, the ingredient that most closely approximates the original kina lillet is Cocchi Americano.

Drinkers should find the vesper’s taste and experience extremely accessible. Vodka softens the juniper punch of the gin and the Cocchi Americano sweetens the drink up a bit.

Recipe (adapted):

1.5 oz london dry gin

3/4 oz vodka

3/4 oz Cocchi Americano

Just do it  —  shake it — or at least ask the guest what they prefer, and strain into a chilled martini glass. Most fancy cocktailers will insist you stir this, but there are never hard and fast rules.

Garnish with a lemon swath and be sure to express those oils over the drink.

The Standards

The standard martinis either come with a savory garnish — usually olives —  or a twist of citrus zest. While the formula for the cocktail itself may not change, the type of garnish used can radically change the drinker’s experience. Use a standard martini with one of the following drinkers:

  • The hungry drinker. A standard martini makes a perfect palate cleanser. The citrus twist imparts fresh aromas, which combine with the clean texture of the gin and vermouth. The booze-soaked olives, on the other hand, are the perfect savoury snack to whet the appetite. This martini will never make a guest feel too full for food, unlike beer.
  • Due to the martini’s versatility, drinkers can add their own creative flair. They can choose ANY citrus zest, and ANY olive. Because a standard martini is a very ‘clean’ canvas we’re painting on, the garnish will definitely have a dramatic effect on the experience.


2 oz of gin

1/2 oz dry vermouth

Either a twist OR olives

In my opinion, a london dry style gin will work well with a twist or olives because: a) the bright and sharp juniper works very well with the clean fresh aroma of a twist. B) Juniper and coriander, often the prevailing botanicals used in gin, are originally pickling spices. We all know that olives pair fantastically well with pickles!

The Dirty Martini

A dirty martini is a martini that contains olive brine. Gin and olives accentuate any martini, and olive brine takes the flavors and mouthfeel even further. Note, however, that martinis without olive brine make better palate cleansers.

When I make a dirty martini, I use gins with pronounced notes of Grains of Paradise (which, to me, smell like some kind of mechanic’s grease), or Mediterranean herbs (rosemary, thyme, etc.). Respective examples are Aviation, and Gin Mare.

The amount of brine I add varies depending on the type of brine. We’re only trying to add a bit of sodium and mouthfeel, so usually about a quarter of an ounce will do.

A note on extra, extra, extra dirty martinis: while guests can order whatever they want, I find that a martini with tons of brine is a strange thing. They’re basically saying to me: “I want to drink alcoholic saline.” Weird, no? Excess brine totally covers up the gin. You could probably make the drink with absinthe and the guest wouldn’t know the difference.

The Gibson Martini

As is the case with all great cocktails, the gibson and its pickled onion garnish tell an awesome story.

Charles Dana Gibson created America’s first national standard of feminine idyllic beauty in his satirical drawings of Gibson Girls. Gibson Girls were characterized by both fragility and voluptuousness.

A real-life portrayal of a Gibson Girl

You could say that the gibson martini embodies both of these qualities. The gibson garnishes the martini’s delicate body with TWO cocktail onions. The number of onions represents a Gibson Girl’s two voluptuous breasts. The gibson is the only cocktail in the common repertory that calls for an even number of garnish. Tradition would generally call this bad luck.


2 oz gin of guest’s choice

1/2 oz dry vermouth

Stir, and strain in a chilled cocktail glass

Garnish with TWO cocktail onions


The Dry Martini

The dry martini we know today differs significantly from the original (see the fifty-fifty above). If a guest asks for an ‘extra dry’ martini, they often just want a very cold glass of gin with a twist or with olives. Originally ‘dry’ meant substituting sweet Italian vermouth for dry french vermouth , NOT using less dry french vermouth.

Nonetheless, I generally use a 1/4 oz of dry vermouth when guests ask for a dry martini. A 1/4 oz of dry vermouth added to a punchy London dry gin, though, honestly won’t change the drink very much.


2.5 oz –  3 oz of gin.

0.25 oz Dry Vermouth

A challenge that often comes up with dry martinis is a low ‘washline’. The washline refers to where the drink comes up to on the glass, and is a very important subconscious indicator of the value that the guest is getting. A low washline causes the guest to say “hmm..that is a small drink” even if there is the same amount of alcohol. We never want a drink that is dwarfed by the glass.

People are conditioned to expect that they receive a full glass, so it is in your best interest to ensure that you exceed their expectations on first glance.

This being the case, you may need to bump up the amount of gin you put in a dry martini to make up for the lack of dry vermouth.

Martinis That Aren’t Quite Martinis

These relatives make an excellent choice for guests who want something a little different.

The Martinez

The martinez is the modern martini’s granddaddy. The modern martini (along with the Manhattan, Rob Roy, and others) all descend from the vermouth cocktail (sweet italian vermouth, bitters, ice, twist).

So the vermouth cocktail was a great mid-day, low-octane cocktail that wouldn’t muddy the waters too much. But eventually drinkers longed for a bit more booze in their vermouth cocktails. So imbibers began adding all kinds of spirits to vermouth  —  gin, brandy, whisky, etc. As a result, we now have cocktails like the manhattan, martini, and Rob Roy.

Note the use of sweet italian vermouth in this recipe instead of dry french. The italian vermouth exploded in popularity in the 1880s. In fact, all extant print recipes prior to 1931 used italian vermouth.

So, when it comes to today’s common repertoire of drinks, the martinez is actually the closest thing we’re making on a regular basis to the original martini: gin, sweet vermouth, bitters, and a twist).


3/4 oz london dry gin

3/4 oz old tom gin

1.5 oz sweet vermouth

1/4 oz maraschino liqueur

2 dashes Boker’s Bitters

Note: I’ve adapted this recipe to suit my own palate. The original actually calls for 2 oz of italian sweet vermouth to 1 oz of old tom gin. This proportion, with the maraschino liqueur, makes for a very sweet drink. I add old tom gin to bring down the sweetness of the italian vermouth. Then I bolster the two with a nice london dry. This combination, I find, attains a better balance.

The Arsenic and Old Lace

In Joseph Kesselring’s 1939 black comedy Arsenic and Old Lace, the protagonist, Mortimer Brewster, must contend with his maniacal family. This family includes two homicidal aunts who enjoy murdering lonely men. The aunts feed men a concoction of elderberry wine (often floral, like the violette in this cocktail) laced with “arsenic, strychnine, and just a pinch of cyanide.” In the non-fatal version of this cocktail, we substitute the arsenic, strychnine, and cyanide with absinthe.

Poor lonely old man


1 3/4 oz london dry gin

3/4 oz dry vermouth

1/3 oz violette liqueur

3 dashes of Pernod

Stir, strain into a chilled cocktail glass

Garnish with a lemon twist or something floral

Well, there you have it. A guide to six magical martinis and stories to go with them. Have a taste, serve them up, and don’t forget to prime your guests with their peculiar histories.

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